Sam got into Jess's car and drove aimlessly for what felt like hours. He didn't understand what had happened with her; he couldn't think of a single thing he'd done to make her turn away from his kisses and avoid his hands, even when they pretty much had the house to themselves. He'd thought she loved him. The car was beginning to feel airless, and he knew he had to stop, get out of the car, and get himself together so that he could think, really think, and figure it out.
He hit the brakes when he recognized the gas station they'd found on the way in, and he remembered kissing the cherry Slurpee off her lips, the way she'd chased his mouth when he'd tried to pull back, how sweet it had been to taste her while the sun shone down on them like it was meant for just the two of them on that perfect day.
He pulled in and filled the tank up, then drove around to the back and washed her car from top to bottom, just the way Dean had taught him. With each wax-on, wax-off movement, he replayed everything that had happened since they'd walked into Dad's house. As the blue of the car emerged under his ministrations, sparkling in the sunshine, Sam found his own thoughts clearing up. In his own nervousness about bringing her home, he hadn't quite been able to miss the way she'd shook, her voice and her hands, as she stepped into the lions' den.
There had been no guarantee that Dean or Dad would like her, or that Sam would choose her if it came down to it. And suddenly it all made sense, to see what she'd done as attempts to win over Dad, the one whose opinion mattered most; surely even at her most apprehensive she could see that as long as Sam was happy, Dean was happy.
Dad had said that Sam had to sleep on the couch, so Jess wouldn't touch him. Dad had dark circles under his eyes, so Jess made him sit outside in silence, just looking out at the world instead of trying to save it. Dad had been on his own for too long; Jess would cook him the meals he liked best.
Even that was astonishing. He wondered how long she'd been practicing, imagined that she might even have called her mom and asked for all the secret recipes guaranteed to make a man's mouth water. He laughed as he thought about her secret diligence, evidenced by the way she twirled the kitchen knife as expertly as she must have handled her little pageant baton, and he reminded himself to find out if her parents were hanging onto any videotapes of her from those days, his Jess, his beauty queen.
She loved him.
He put the top down and drove off, letting the sunlight warm up every inch of his skin.
The park was drenched in sunshine, and the shouts of happy children weren't too loud as long as he stayed far away from the swings. He didn't feel like sitting, so he wandered, feeling the grass soft under his feet. This would be a perfect place to take Jess for a picnic, maybe even for the two of them to make a day of it with Dean, whenever he got back from Dad's top-secret errand, and even Dad himself, who seemed to have invented a new smile just for Jess. He'd have his whole family with him, and everything would fall into place, because that was clearly how it was meant to be.
"Carat, clarity, color, and cut," the man said, looking at him like he was trying to figure out if Sam was really serious about this endeavor, or if it was all a familiar prank. Sam guessed he didn't look especially presentable in his holey jeans and white t-shirt, even if it did have Stanford blazoned in red across the chest; he figured either Dad or Jess would make sure he knuckled under and got a haircut before any pictures for posterity were taken. "Those are the four bases for grading diamonds. Do you need me to go into further detail?"
Sam shrugged, content to wander around the store and look for whatever caught his eye. He saw a flash of a rainbow out of the corner of his eye and turned and headed for that display. The rings there were beautiful, glittering like they were lit up from the inside, and he bent closer. "The rings in that case start at ten thousand dollars," the man said, and Sam straightened up and walked away. He couldn't start any kind of life with Jess under the weight of that kind of debt.
"But over here," the man said, clearly taking pity on him, "you can design your own ring, starting with the center diamond itself." Sam nearly refused, about to say that he certainly couldn't buy a ring today, and there was no way of knowing where Dad and Dean would be shacked up by the time he could, but stopped himself. It would be nice to buy her a ring in Kansas, where Dad and Mom had started their lives together, where he'd been born. There was a nice symmetry to it. He smiled at the guy and went to take a look.